The 5 Best Ice Melts: Reviews and Complete Buying Guide

Winter is a time with many things to look forward to and enjoy, but it’s also one fraught with several season-specific dangers that could easily land us in trouble. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around one million Americans are injured annually as the result of falling on ice and snow and these injuries are fatal for approximately 17,000 people every year.

Given the above, finding the best ice melt for your yard, driveway, or the walkways around your home not only seems wise but absolutely imperative. Below, we aim to help you do so by introducing you to the best ice melt products out there.

In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…

1. Safe Paw Non-Toxic Ice Melter – Overall Best

Safe Paw Ice Melter – 8 lbs 3oz Jug
  • PEOPLE & PET SAFE - Imagine an ice melt you can put down and never worry about. It won’t harm animals or children, and it won’t damage your property. That’s Safe Paw. Unlike anything else on the market, Safe Paw can change how winter affects our planet. Your grass, plants, and foliage are safe! Safe on eyes, skin and paws. It’s safe around and if ingested. Best of all: 100% salt free.
  • MELT AT LOW TEMPERATURES - Guaranteed to melt at low temperatures (-2°F), it’s non-toxic and biodegradable
  • EXCELLENT SPREAD RATE - Allows a typical back yard to be treated to make a safe winter play land for pets and people. Can be used for a long time on small and large areas.
  • NON-CORROSIVE - It’s non corrosive and non-conductive. No damage to delicate machinery or worry about short circuits. Get instant melting without worrying about property damage
  • LONG SHELF LIFE - Concentrated formula assures long-term, maximum effectiveness from season to season.

Last update on 2019-11-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For us to consider any one product the best ice melt on the market, it needs to fulfill a number of criteria. It should be effective, safe for pets and kids, non-corrosive, non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and reasonably priced.

The Safe Paw Non-Toxic Ice Melter ticks all of the above boxes and does so, in most cases, more emphatically than the vast majority of its ice-melt competitors.

This melt uses a proprietary blend of carbonyl diamine and a glycol admixture which is non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and salt-free. The last of these attributes also make it safe for pets, as with most ice melts the harm done to pets is caused by the use of aggressive mineral salts. It is capable of melting roughly half an inch of ice in ten minutes and works in temps as low as -2°F. While this doesn’t make it the best bet for those likely to experience extremely cold winters, it’s a solid, safe bet for everyone else.

In terms of effectiveness, then, Safe Paw is not the top performer on the market by some way but, given its low price and the fact that it’s one of the safest melts out there, this seems a very tolerable trade-off and a small price to pay in return for the peace of mind begotten of knowing the product will be safe for your driveway, pets, and kids.

What We Like:

  • Safe for kids and pets
  • Non-corrosive and non-conductive
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Long shelf life
  • Reasonably priced

What We Don’t Like:

  • Relatively poor lowest melt temp (-2F)
  • Takes slightly longer to melt than competitors
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

2. Dando Powerful Ice Melt – Best Budget Option

DANDO 25 lbs. Powerful Ice Melt
  • Melts ice 2 to 5 times faster than rock salt.
  • Sodium Free, less environment impact
  • Faster Action, Longer Lasting
  • Generate heat when contact with ice and snow
  • Improves traction, makes your steps safer.

Last update on 2019-11-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Dando Powerful Ice Melt packs a lot of punch at a very palatable price point. While this 25-pound bag’s price tag is comparable to many other competitors, what most users quickly learn is that only a very small amount of Dando’s calcium chloride pellets need be applied for it to blitz through even thick ice, thereby making that 25-pound pack last a lot longer than those from rival brands.

One of the most attractive things about this melt is its performance in severe conditions, with it’s -30F effective lowest melting temperature making it a standout amongst the competition. Additionally, this ice melt works fast, clearing thicker ice in far shorter times than products that use a sodium rather than calcium chloride base.

The brand’s full name—Dando Chemicals LLC.—is a bit of a giveaway with regard to this product’s toxicity and safeness for pets and kids. In short, the calcium chloride is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs liquid from ice and snow and even the ambient air upon contact. However, it is also an irritant and Dando includes extensive warnings on the packaging regarding their product’s potential to cause damage to concrete, vegetation, and other surfaces. The take-home? Only buy this product if you have a driveway with high-quality concrete and don’t intend to use it on vegetation or other surfaces like wood decking.

What We Like:

  • Works very quickly
  • Can be applied very lightly
  • Effective in very low temperatures (-30F)
  • Pellets can be dissolved in water to make liquid ice melt

What We Don’t Like:

  • Can irritate paws of pets
  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Corrosive to concrete
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

3. Branch Creek Entry Liquid Ice Melt

Branch Creek Entry Chloride-Free, Non- Toxic, Liquid Snow and Ice Melt Safer for Pets, Plants, Floors, Concrete, Sidewalks, and Metal for Residential or Commercial Use (0.5 Gallon)
  • Entry’s proprietary residue-free formulation eliminates the mess and expense of cleaning up ice melt materials inside of homes and buildings. Entry’s clear liquid formulation eliminates the abrasive affect that granular ice melts have on flooring surfaces. Entry’s neutral pH reduces the risk of damage to high value flooring surfaces such as hardwood, tile, granite and marble.
  • 1/2 gallon of entry will provide comparable coverage to 50 pounds of other ice melts.
  • Entry’s chloride-free formulation is safer for pets, plants, shoes, metals, concrete and the planet.
  • When used as directed Entry will melt snow and ice in less than 30 seconds and prevent refreeze to temperatures below O°F/-19°C.
  • Entry has an unlimited shelf life.

Last update on 2019-11-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Very few ice melts out there adhere to the principles of “Leave No Trace,” but in the Branch Creek Entry Liquid Ice Melt we believe we may just have found one.

This liquid ice melt is a winner for those looking to minimize the mess and harm caused by their de-icing product, using a residue and chloride-free and neutral pH formulation that is safer for pets, reduces the risk of damage to high-value flooring surfaces such as hardwood, tile, granite and marble, is safer for concrete, turf, and vegetation, doesn’t stain leather and suede shoes, and is both biodegradable and eco-friendly.

In terms of effectiveness, Branch Creek’s Entry scores points by melting ice very quickly and preventing re-freezing in extreme sub-zero temperatures, but loses a few points due to its inability to shift more substantial accumulations of ice—makers Entry, in fact, stipulate that their product is designed to deal with ice no more than one eighth of an inch thick.

All told, this is a super-safe, effective, easy-to-use product that’s a good bet for anyone who wants to deal with smaller quantities of ice quickly and with minimal impact on the environment and their yard’s fixtures.

What We Like:

  • It’s versatile: can be used on any surface
  • It’s non-corrosive
  • Very easy to use
  • Can be used on any sprayer
  • Fast-acting: turn slippery into safe in less than 30 seconds
  • Eco-friendly

What We Don’t Like:

  • Designed for use on thin ice (under 1/8thof an inch thick)
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

4. Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt Pellets

Green Gobbler 96% Pure Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt Pellets | Concrete Safe Ice Melt (35 lb Pail)
  • MELTS SNOW & ICE 4X FASTER - 4X faster than rock salt by generating exothermic heat that penetrates even through thick snow & ice. Instantly melts ice, frost, and snow with maximum safety and little effort. Apply at beginning of snow storm if possible. Spread pellets evenly over desired area.
  • PERFECT WITH SPREADER EQUIPMENT - Thanks to its round pellet design, perfect to use with inexpensive rotary spreaders. Ideal for covering larger areas and to spread the ice pellets even faster and with less effort.
  • FOR TEMPERATURES AS LOW AS -40 DEGREES: Snow melt pellets work in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The Calcium Chloride Pellets lower the re-freezing temperature of melted ice, to prevent ice from building up again. Perfect for parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, porches, patios, roofs and more!
  • SAFE, ODORLESS & COLORLESS FORMULA: A perfectly safe ice-melt option for pets and plants. Pellets will not destroy or kill grasses, bushes or trees. Ice pellets will not chemically harm decorative landscapes. A safe and easy way to quickly eliminate ice and snow.
  • PERFECT TO USE ON ROOFING: Safe for roofs, leaving no residue and does not track. Ice pellets are used and trusted by homeowners, businesses and municipalities. 30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE, We love our customers and back all orders with a hassle free money back guarantee.

Last update on 2019-11-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you happen to live in a part of the world where even the moose wear parka jackets come wintertime, Green Gobbler’s 96% Calcium Chloride Snow & Ice Melt Pellets may well be the product for you.

This ice melt wins our vote on account of its superior potency and ability to shift ice in temps that other melts simply can’t. As you might have guessed, this potency derives from the product’s 96% calcium chloride content, which is the purest and highest of this active ingredient currently on the market. Green Gobbler also claims that this ice melt can do its thing in temps as low as -40F, making it a considerable upgrade on most available options and a great choice for those who expect their winters to look like a scene from north of The Wall in Game of Thrones.

On the downside, this ice melt is probably not going to win over too many conscientious homeowners or those with pets and kids—it’s not the most eco-friendly product out there and its highly concentrated formula is not pet- or kid-safe.

What We Like:

  • Sold in a robust, sealed pail
  • Safe for use on roofs
  • Fast-acting
  • Odorless
  • Effective in very low temperatures

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not eco-friendly
  • Not pet-friendly
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

5. Snow Joe Melt-2-Go Nature + Pet-Friendly Ice Melt

Snow Joe W/Scooper AZ-25-EB-BKT Melt-2-Go Nature + Pet Friendly CMA Blended Ice, 25 lb Bucket, Green
  • Snow-shredding, ice-dicing, sleet-busting winter weather wonder in a box, delivered directly to your door!
  • Eco-, pet- and kid-friendly for safe deicing
  • Enhanced with CMA (calcium magnesium acetate) for fast and effective results
  • Color-coated crystals help to visually measure and dispense the right amount
  • Convenient refillable bucket with handy scoop for easy dispensing

Last update on 2019-11-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Comparable to the Branch Creek Entry Ice Melt featured above, this product is one for those who want comparable eco-friendliness and the reassurance that their product won’t harm their kids, pets, vegetation, plants, or yard furnishings, but also one that’s serious about shifting ice in a hurry.

Snow Joe Melt-2-Go Nature + Pet-Friendly Ice Melt uses a combo of sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate in this ice melt to make it not only eco-friendly but also low-corrosion and safe for use around pets, plants, lawns, and also on concrete, roofs, and other wood or metal surfaces. The pellets are also not only fast-acting but also long-lasting, meaning that they continue working long after dispersal and can limit the extent of nighttime refreezing.

The only drawbacks to this product are its relative ineffectiveness in very low temps (Snow Joe list its lowest melt temp as -5F) and the pellets’ rock salt content—while relatively low, there’s still enough there to make this less paw-friendly for your pets than some of the other products on our list.

What We Like:

  • (Reasonably, but not entirely) eco-, pet- and kid-friendly
  • Reasonably priced
  • Less harmful to plants and vegetation
  • Safe for use on concrete, roofs, decks, and other metallic and wooden surfaces
  • Handy refillable bucket with a plastic scoop for easy dispensing
  • Color-coated crystals help to visually measure and dispense the right amount
  • Enhanced with CMA (calcium magnesium acetate) for fast and effective results

What We Don’t Like:

  • Not the best performer in extremely cold conditions
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Things to Consider When Buying Ice Melt

How Do Ice Melts Work?

Before launching into the specific ins and outs of ice melt ingredients and how these relate to effectiveness and suitability for your needs, it’s important to first learn a little about how ice melt works.

Most ice melts are, to varying degrees, exothermic, meaning they generate heat from within to penetrate through snow and ice. During this process, ice melt compounds reduce the freezing temperature of water, which in turn results in snow and ice melting.

The most common form of ice melt has traditionally been rock salt, but these days several other active ingredients are used by various brands to speed up and prolong the de-icing process, and also make products more effective in cooler temps, eco-friendly, and safer for pets, concrete surfaces, and plants. We’ll go into the most common of these ingredients in more detail below.

Types of Ice Melt: Which Active Ingredients Work Best?

Sodium Chloride, a.k.a. ‘Rock Salt’

This old-school ice melt is still used in blended ice melts to bulk up more effective active ingredients. While cheap to buy and offering plenty of traction on slippery surfaces, this format of ice melt is slow to get to work, performs poorly in very cold temps, is not pet-friendly, can damage plants and concrete, and leaves a streaky, white residue. All told, cheap but not very cheerful…

Calcium Chloride

If you happen to live in a location where winter temps are particularly low, an ice melt with high calcium chloride content is most likely the way to go. This ingredient can melt ice and snow down to -25° F and, although pricey, is highly effective. The downsides to calcium chloride are that it tends to leave a slight whitish residue and can be corrosive to concrete and metallic surfaces.

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride may only melt effectively in temps as low as 5°F and not be quite as powerful a melter as calcium chloride, but it is a fraction more eco-friendly than both calcium chloride and sodium chloride and is also gentler on plants and much less corrosive.

Potassium Chloride

Potassium Chloride is a poor performer in very cold temperatures but has the benefit of being safe to use on lawns, plants, and any other vegetation around your yard.

Sodium Acetate

Sodium acetate is usually sold in powder form and very small quantities can blitz large iced areas owing to its exothermic and hygroscopic properties. It can melt ice in temps as low as 0°F and is a popular choice for deicing runways at airports worldwide.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate

Granulated calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is a patented chemical formulation derived from dolomitic lime and acetic acid. In the late 1970s, it was identified as a low-corrosion, environmentally friendly alternative to rock salt by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and soon thereafter became available commercially. CMA is far less corrosive than most other ice melt ingredients and so is a good choice for those who plan on using their product on concrete, metals, and even wood surfaces.

Ethylene glycol

This chemical, which is also used in antifreeze, can reduce the freezing point of water to as low as -58° F, thereby making it one of the most effective ice melt ingredients available. Sadly, ethylene glycol is also highly poisonous and potentially deadly to both humans and animals, so it is not a good option if you have pets or don’t want the extra hassle of having to wear protective gloves and a mask while spreading your ice melt.

Propylene glycol  

While usually found in more expensive ice melts, propylene glycol can lower the freezing point of water to lower than -70°F and is also non-toxic to plants, pets, and animals.

Ice Melt Blends

Most ice melts use a combination of active ingredients in order to find a balance between a number of desirable attributes such as de-icing ability, cold-weather performance, eco-friendliness, pet-friendliness, and graininess for underfoot traction, for example.

When buying a blended ice melt, we recommend that you opt for a product that doesn’t overdo it on rock salt and uses enough other active ingredients to improve the temperature that the melt will work in and reduce the product environmental impact, corrosiveness, and potential to hard your driveway, lawn, or pets and children.

Which Ice Melts Are Safe for Pets?

While many brands market their ice melts with terms that make them appear to be pet-friendly, in reality very few of these products are entirely safe for your pets. For the most parts, these products use either lower quantities of ingredients known to be toxic or harmful to pets or higher quantities of ingredients known to be less toxic or harmful—which is, of course, hardly the same thing as being “safe”.

Unfortunately, one of the most popular ingredients used in ice melts, rock salt, is one of the least pet-friendly ingredients on the market, with prolonged exposure often resulting in burn-like symptoms on your pet’s paws and ingestion likely to cause severe gastrointestinal issues.

The ingredient that you should really look to avoid if you are a pet owner or your neighbor’s pets venture over into your yard is ethylene glycol, which can be—and usually is—deadly if ingested.

The safest ice melts out there typically use a propylene glycol base. This active ingredient is not as effective as other options but it does not harm the skin of pets and is safe for dogs (though can harm a cat’s red blood cells if ingested).

While urea-based ice melts are typically touted as the safest for pets if ingested this ingredient can lead to gastrointestinal irritation, weakness, tremors, and methemoglobinemia in your pet.

What Types of Ice Melt Are Dangerous?

Most types of ice melt contain ingredients that are potentially harmful either to you, your kids, or your pets. Below, we’ve added a shortlist of the potential dangers posed by different ingredients.

Sodium Chloride (rock salt): Exposure to rock salt can dry your pet’s paw pads, resulting in sometimes extreme irritation and broken skin. If your pet is outside playing in the area where you’ve spread ice melt, be sure to hose them down or (more compassionately, given the time of year) thrown them in the bath to wash off any residue on their coat or paws.

Calcium Chloride: This can cause irritation to the eyes and skin and also lead to respiratory problems if inhaled.

Potassium Chloride: It can cause respiratory problems and coughs if inhaled and irritation to the eyes and skin. If ingested, it can lead to nausea, weakness, and even convulsions.

Magnesium Chloride: This can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes, and skin. If ingested, it can cause nausea and vomiting.

Acetates: Can cause lung and eye irritation.

Ethylene glycol: Poisonous to both humans and animals. If ingested, seek immediate medical assistance.

The take-home? Using any kind of ice melt requires caution. With most products, the best policy is to wear gloves when spreading and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. If the product poses a health risk if inhaled, wear a simple safety mask when spreading the product and make sure it’s stored in a sealed container away from where your kids or pets can reach it. Some products—such as ethylene glycol—are not recommended if you have pets or young children due to their high toxicity.

If you suspect that you, your pet, or child has come into contact with any product, you should give the exposed area a rinse off in warm water. Also, check your pets’ paws to make sure they don’t have any pellets or granules stuck between their toes and remove shoes before entering your home to avoid carrying product residue indoors.

If safety is more of a priority than the performance of your product, we highly recommend opting for an ice melt that is entirely non-toxic and pet- and kid-friendly. These products might set you back a little more and perhaps lose a little in the way of melting power, but that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Sale
Safety Works 10059526 Dust Masks For Non Toxic Dusts 25 Pack
  • Made of good quality products
  • Select propellants that deliver consistent accuracy and performance
  • Product is manufactured in China

Last update on 2019-11-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


How To Use Ice Melt

While the correct use of ice melt varies from product to product, most granular ice melts are dispersed manually (that is, by hand). The best practice with any product is to lay down a light layer before a storm arrives, and then another layer during the storm and a final dusting once the storm is over.

As demonstrated in the following video from Garden Granny, one of the simplest ways to spread your granular ice melt, and minimize contact with your hands and skin, is to use a garden spreader.

Best Ice Melt Brands

Snow Joe: This New Jersey-based brand has been on the go since 2004 and specializes in high-quality, durable, and affordable outdoor tools and machinery.

Green Gobbler: This New York-based brand has made a name for itself in the production of industrial cleaning and garden products and now also makes a small selection of ice melts.

Safe Paw: Safe Paw was developed in 1998 out of necessity because nothing in the market met our standard of safety. Safe Paw’s ongoing mission to provide products that uphold its commitment to sustainability. All Products made and assembled in the USA.

Ice Melt FAQs

Q: What’s the best ice melt for a wood deck?

A: For use on composite decks like Timbertech and Trex, sodium and calcium chloride are generally considered safe options. With wood, however, your best bet is to use either magnesium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate, both of which are very gentle on delicate or corrosion-prone surfaces.

Q: Does ice melt damage concrete?

A: The chloride used in many ice melt products can be corrosive to the concrete after sustained exposure.   Sodium Chloride/rock salt and potassium chloride are usually the worst offenders, but you can ease any fears of cracked heavily corroded driveways by choosing an ice melt that uses a base of magnesium chloride or calcium chloride, both of which are far less corrosive.

In most cases, however, if your concrete was made with a high-quality mix and has been in place for over a year, then it should be able to deal with the chemicals found in most ice melts.

Q: When should I put ice melt down?

A: Ideally, you should lay or spread your ice melt before a storm arrives as contact with the ground optimizes its effectiveness. If this isn’t feasible, you should spread a thin layer of ice melt as soon as possible, ideally before precipitation can freeze or immediately clearing snow from the area you wish to de-ice. If you’d like to do that clearing in a hurry, check out our guide to electric snow blowers!

Conclusion

Choosing the best ice melt for your needs will depend on a number of variables, most notably the climate in which you live, whether or not you have pets or kids, whether or not you have a concrete driveway, how eco-friendly you wish your product to be, and how much cash your willing to part with in return for an ice-free driveway, yard, patio, and/or walkways around your home.

As such, selecting the best option form the above list of products is a tricky business. However, if pushed to choose one that ticks all the boxes and performs well across the board, we’d have to go with the Safe Paw Non-Toxic Ice Melt. This product may lack a little in the way of strength compared to its competitors, but it more than makes up for it with its eco-, pet-friendly, and non-corrosive ingredients, competitive pricing, and speedy melt times.